Most Important Lessons Learned on the MBA

Finally putting pen to paper having promised this blog for a while. We’re in the final week of our MBA program; it’s been quite the year!

Why Smurfit? Having done my undergraduate degree in UCD–with parents also alumni–no other colleges even came into thought. Smurfit’s reputation speaks for itself: it takes huge pride in its present students and alumni, and the MBA offers multiple opportunities for international exposure and learning throughout the year. Plus, I could never even dream of going to any of our cross city rivals! 

Here are some of the main learning points I’ve taken from this year on a personal level.

Importance of Teamwork

Cliched for sure. But the MBA has taught me so much about teamwork and team dynamics. We’ve had multiple different teams throughout the year. Each team has different personalities, different skill sets and most importantly, different ways of working.

In these situations we need to learn how to adapt. Get to know those on our team, get to know how they work. There is never a perfect team recipe, or a one size fits all. If there was, we’d all be winning. Learning about how you work best as a team is crucial to optimizing the experience for all involved. 

The biggest learning here for me is being able to find that middle ground, trying to find a perfect fit for that team at that moment, even though it won’t be a sweet spot for everyone involved. 

Three young white men in suits pose with an Instagram photo booth frame labeled UCD Smurfit School
The author + classmates at the beginning of the school year

The Power of Authenticity

Authenticity: This is by far one of the most used words or phrases used by our guest speakers this year.

I think authenticity isn’t spoken about enough at times. I believe people feel pressured to be something they’re not to allow themselves to fit into a social group, a work group or even into a job description. ‘Being your authentic self’ is obviously easier said than done at times, especially when you feel it may not be good enough. But I’m a firm believer in what is for you won’t pass you by, and things will become easier in the long run by staying by your own beliefs.

Applying this to myself, the transition from a clinical to more corporate style environment has been challenging in itself. The networking, the events, the phone calls–I didn’t even have a LinkedIn profile this time last year! But I’m hopeful and slowly becoming more confident that in the long run my own skills, old and new (courtesy of the MBA), will be useful to a team, company or client wherever my professional life takes me come September. My skill set has improved for sure, but me as a person won’t change to fit into a job description or role.

The Importance of Balance

Stress is another word which has certainly been thrown around our class group quite a bit this year. I think as humans it’s super important to learn how to cope with it. Everyone has their quirks, habits, and hobbies, their small things that improve their overall wellbeing by those small percentages. This year more than ever I have found it to be both extremely difficult but also high priority to try and find a balance between work and wellbeing. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to not have had huge exposure to stress in my 29 years, and I think the MBA is trying its best to make up for lost time! Time is the most valuable resource to us in the Full Time MBA class, but for me the most important part of the week is the small pockets of time to offset that stress. Exercise is my own go to, and I know this differs throughout my class cohort.

This particularly has been a huge learning point for me this year. I think we as humans are improving, but still slow to talk about and manage things like stress and mental health. And also slow in admitting we do certain things to offset that, when in reality the importance of it for our overall health couldn’t be more significant.

Owning your Strengths

As this year has developed this has become something which I would hold huge value to. The Irish culture is one which is certainly not conducive to “fancying yourself”, but I certainly believe there is a balance to be struck here. 

One thing I have certainly learned from the MBA this year is that the corporate environment can be dog eat dog at times, and nobody is going to own your strengths for you. This has required a shift in mindset for myself personally, coming from a healthcare background.

However, what the careers team and faculty in UCD have done consistently for us this year, is go above and beyond to facilitate our own self-development and increase our own self-awareness of our skill sets and strengths. This has come from not only self reflection, but also what our peers see that we may not. Hopefully we as a cohort can do ourselves and the school justice going forward. 

So a huge shout out to Bernie and the rest of the staff for all of their hard work.

The Author on his GNAM Network Week posting

Respect for my International Colleagues

In a year that has demanded substantially more than most of us could have imagined, I have to take the opportunity to show my respect for my international colleagues who have made the journey to Dublin this year.

Having lived in New Zealand for 4 and a half years prior to coming home to study, I know exactly what it feels like to be away from home for such a long period of time. However in such a challenging year, I am super grateful to have my friends and family so close as a support system to make the year that little bit easier.

I don’t think I could imagine doing the year so far away from them. So again, a huge amount of respect to my international colleagues who have taken the leap to Dublin and hope you have found those safe spaces whilst being here.

The Author & Classmates on their International Study Tour to Scandinavia

All in all this year has been an experience to say the least, one which has presented big challenges but also plenty of good memories. As the end is drawing nearer, the next challenge of entering the working world again awaits, and is something I hugely look forward to embracing.

Eddy O Byrne, FTMBA Class of 2023